Your beating heart is a fist-sized pumping system with four valves and four chambers. Various blood vessels carry blood to and from the heart. It circulates blood to every cell in your body as it pumps an average of 100,000 times per day. The pumping action carries oxygen and nutrients that we need to stay alive. Then the blood is pumped back to the lungs and gets “refilled” with oxygen. Fortunately for us, the process continues all day and night.
After considering that amount of daily effort, I think we should commend our hard-working hearts.
Consider these questions:
What is your smoking status? If you smoke, make “no smoking” your goal. Smoking damages the heart and blood vessels.
Do you maintain a healthy weight? A body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9 is the goal. For an online BMI calculator, visit the website of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/. Using a calculator, determine your BMI by dividing your weight in pounds by your height in inches squared. Then multiply the total by a conversion factor of 703.
Are you physically active? Move toward the current recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity).
Do you eat a healthful diet? Aim for 4.5 cups of fruit/vegetables per day, three ounces or more of whole grains per day, at least two servings of fish per week, less than 450 calories from beverages with added sugars per week and less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.
What is your blood pressure? The goal is for the upper number (systolic) to be less than 120 millimetres of mercury and the lower number (diastolic) to be less than 80.
What is your blood cholesterol? A blood cholesterol level less than 200 milligrams per decilitre (mg/dl) is the current recommendation.
What is your blood sugar value? The goal is for your blood sugar to be less than 100 mg/dl.
Treat your heart well. With a little care you can help it to keep beating for a long time.
– Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, L.R.D.,
is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition
specialist and associate professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.